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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Weekend Recap

H and I spent our Christmas at his parent's house.  It's our usual tradition minus a lot of traditional stuff.  The holiday felt different, unusual, and empty.  His big family felt much smaller with the absence of his grandfather, aunts, uncles, and little kids running around.  It wasn't the same.  We still took pictures and tried to act normal.

Aunts & Cousins

Uncles & Cousins

Smiling for the camera w/ my Santa hat headband

Even though Christmas wasn't the same as the previous years, the holiday was enjoyable.  The first Christmas I spent with his family was back in 2006, and we have come a long way since then.  I remember being enamored by the huge family gathering, and I eagerly participated as if everyone was my own blood.  H's family have always accepted me into their own family, and for that I am grateful.

Cousins w/ Grandparents - 2006

Awkward couple photo in front of the tree - 2006

Assembling the gingerbread house - 2006

I also can't help but to think how different Christmas will be next year and from then on...

This is a tad belated, but I hope everyone had a great holiday shared with their family and friends.  While I'm at it, happy new year!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time Flies!

Has anyone else felt like the last couple of months have been zooming by at an alarmingly fast rate?  Maybe it's just me and the hubby, but we are so overwhelmed by the rapid succession of holidays.  We just can't keep up!!

Halloween zipped by before we knew it, leaving us little time to decorate and get ready.  Luckily we purchased our pumpkins weeks in advanced, but we didn't actually carve them until Halloween day.  We were not prepared enough for the number of kids who rang our doorbell that night and ran out of candy way too early.  At least we had two varieties of Pocky and Mentos to keep them happy.  I was a cat at the very last minute, and H didn't have time to whip up a costume.

H using a dremel to etch his Totoro pumpkin this year

Last minute cat costume using 3D glasses frames & PB kids cat ears

Totoro & Vampire Hello Kitty

Fast forward to the month of November, and we're not exactly sure where the weeks went.  Before we knew it, Thanksgiving was here.  We celebrated with our families with lots of delicious food and continued our annual Black Friday tradition.  This time we added another day of turkey for ourselves to celebrate at home, just me and H.

 Celebrating with family

Turkey at home

Now we're down to the last stretch before Christmas.  I wish I could say that all the previous holidays better prepared us for the big Santa filled one, but we are still in shock of how fast it came.  Oye.  We have no outside Christmas decorations, and our tree is pretty empty.  We only have a strand of lights with no ornaments in sight.  We just got lazy this year and never found time for it.  At least we have finished shopping, and all of the presents are wrapped.  I just put my Christmas cards in the mailbox to go out for delivery today with only a few days to spare.

 Our slightly decorated house from last year

I would greatly appreciate it if time could slow down just a tad next year.  I need to let everything sink in before time flies right before my eyes.  Thanks!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's My Age?

I frequently get carded at casinos, bars, and even the mall.  On some occasions people ring my door bell and ask for my parents.  I have always been mistaken for being younger and never older.  By younger, it is usually much younger and an age I don't want to be associated with.  This makes me think about the age people perceive me to be and the age that I perceive myself to be.

My looks alone categorize me into the older teenager, young college going adult category.  Each year I get older, the person who is carding me gets a little more shocked by the birthday on my driver's license.  I have to be 18 to enter the mall on Fridays and Saturdays after 5PM.  I have been carded on multiple occasions.  Do I really look 17 or even younger?  Gosh, I really hope not.  I know not to get offended by the authority figure whose job is to check and verify my age.  I should treat it as a compliment, but I usually do not.

Age 18

I want to be older.  Yes, go ahead and laugh.  While most people are hanging onto their youth, I am letting go.  I look forward and embrace every birthday, and I love to see the number of my age go up.  It sounds silly, but I don't see myself as a 24 year old adult.  I feel much older, and I would like to think that being older is also associated with being more wise and responsible.  I never had a normal childhood, and I was given responsibilities early on in my life.  My teenage years lacked the carefree nature that most experience.  I was working for my parents and focusing on getting into college.  So I got into college and focused on school and my relationship with H.  I didn't attending college parties or drink at the bars.

 Age 21 with H

Do I regret not living the normal life as a teen and young adult?  Not one bit.  I am who I am today because of my past.  I do have a kid like nature about me, but I only share that with my closest friends.  I know when to relax and enjoy myself instead of focusing on all those adult responsibilities.  I am mature, but I mix in crazy childhood fun too.  There are times when I would love to go back to my teenage years and be a social butterfly.  Then I jump back to reality and know that it's not me.

I am 24 years old, and I honestly want to be a few years older.  People still see me between the ages of 17 and 21.  Since I can't change their perception, I'll just laugh a little inside each time I get carded.  No worries.  This has to stop by the time I turn 30, right?  I sure hope so.

Age 24

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Becoming Home Owners: Falling in Love

A whole day after finding the listing for the perfect house, we were finally inside to check it out for ourselves!  H must have been super excited because he got a speeding ticket on our way to the house by going possibly 5 miles over the speed limit.  Boo!  No worries.  We made it safely to the house.

Would the house live up to our expectations?  Take a look!

Front View

 Side View

Back View

The house is located on a quiet street in the neighborhood, and the neighboring houses were well kept.  The street is deeper within the neighborhood, surrounded by houses in every direction.  The two car garage also meant a double wide driveway, which is a nice perk.  The driveway itself was in very good condition.  Looking at houses nearby,  many had repaved their driveways, but I like the classic look of the concrete slabs.

The front and backyard was more than enough space for us.  The backyard was actually bigger in person than we expected, which will be perfect for a nice garden and a play area for the future kiddos.  Yay!  No fence was to be found, but that can be added later.  While the trees on the property have been removed, there was plenty of shade from the neighboring trees.  Like all those bushes?  Hehe.  Well there is another one on the right side of the driveway by the sidewalk too.

Like the older neighborhoods in the city, the electrical and phone poles are located in the backyard.  Sounds weird, right?  It is indeed a quirky feature.

Kitchen - stove, microwave, cabinets, sink, window, and counter top

Kitchen: additional view with fridge, pantry, and additional cabinetry

We went straight to the kitchen upon entering the house.  Why?  We didn't know if we would like it in person from the picture listed on MLS.  It is by no means a super updated modern kitchen, like most homes we looked at, but that also meant freedom to be creative on our part.  The cabinets were in great condition -- nice and solid, good color finish, lots of cabinetry space, and unique hardware (which can easily be replaced).  The appliances matched so well, is in good working order, and were not ancient old -- big plus!  I especially love the double sink and window above the sink, which was something that H favored in a kitchen.  The major downfall -- limited and outdated counter top.  No worries.  I had seen even smaller counter top space in another home & was perfectly fine with it.  The outdated counter top can be easily replaced and for a cheaper price since we wouldn't need that much material.

Laundry Area: dryer, dish washer, and washer

Hmm... this is an interesting setup.  In the kitchen, you can find the washer, dryer, and even the dish washer.  While it does seem like an odd space for your laundry, H saw the huge benefits of having laundry on the first floor.  We saw a lot of homes with basement laundry, which can be a bit inconvenient.  I love how the appliances fit perfectly in the space!  Hehe.  The area can also be closed off as a separate room within the kitchen.  It just might make for a tighter space in addition to the kitchen table.

Dining Room

Here is the first glimpse at the beautiful hardwood floors throughout the house.  It is so gorgeous in real life, and I fell hard for these floors, even in picture form on MLS.  Older homes typically have hardwood floors, but it's usually hidden under outdated carpet.  We told ourselves that we could always rip out the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors.  Well who needs to say that when the work is already done for you?  

 Living Room

While most living rooms are formal, H and I had visions of the space being our family room.  The room is rather long, giving us plenty of space for our growing ideas.  The bay window is beautiful and lets in a lot of natural light.  I can just imagine creating a seating area in the nook of the bay window for quite afternoons with a book in hand.  Unfortunately, the windows in the house are original and not very energy efficient.  New windows cost a lot of money, and it is something we needed to consider.  Luckily they are storm windows, which help a lot in the winter.

 Family Room

This is the only carpeted room in the house, and it is listed as recently replaced.  Yay!  Who wants to move into a house with old carpets anyways?  The fire place looks super cozy, and it can be especially useful on a cold winter night.  The sliding door leads out to the spacious backyard.  Since we had visions of transforming the living room to a family room space, this would be an extra room for us to play around with in our heads.

1st Floor Bathroom

The bathroom is located within the family room, and it is fairly small.  It has just enough space for a sink and a toilet.  I immediately had ideas of a quick remodel on the bathroom, which would be fairly cheap.  A simple sink, toilet, tile, and a can of paint can do wonders for this small space.  It's not entirely offensive though.  So of course the laziness of me would put off a project like that.  Hehe.

Inside of the two car garage

 Right side of garage with a door leading to the side of the house

 Door leading to the family room.  Attached garage with house access!  Woot!

Evidence of a leak in the garage -- uh oh!

Within our budget, it was rare to find a house with a two car garage.  Having a garage was not a requirement of mine, but it was a requirement for H.  He likes to be able to park inside and do work on his car.  Another requirement of his was that the garage had to have access to the house from the inside -- no carports.  The garage only has one garage opener, which is perfect for the one car we own.  Adding an additional opener would not be too difficult.  We did notice some evidence of a possible leak from the roof.  Later H and I checked out the disclosure for the house, which stated that there was in fact a leak, but it has been fixed with no further evidence of leaking.  Phew.

We're not dumb though.  We could tell that the roof was in need of being replaced.  With two layers, it was time for a new roof.  Since the asking price was listed to sell, that meant there would be no budge room for a new roof.  The seller was even smart enough to note it in his disclosure that a new roof would not be provided.  Smart seller.  Knowing that the roof needed some attention, we calculated that into our budget.

 Basement door located by the kitchen

Basement: roomy & empty

 Basement: a view of the inner workings of the house

 Basement: close up

 Basement: old fuse box

 Basement: french drain

The basement door is located by the kitchen.  Do you see those new 6 panel doors?  It's a small detail that makes a pretty big difference because they have been replaced recently.  Descending to the underground, we saw a nice empty basement.  That is a huge plus because it allows the buyer to see the space in its entirety.  We had seen so many basement, which were either too tiny or full of many years of stored goods.  This basement was empty and super spacious.

I am by no means a pro to the inner workings of a house -- water heater, hvac, and the like.  I do know that it is a bummer to be stuck with an old one that needs to be replaced very soon, as we had seen in so many homes.  Luckily the inner workings of this house were all new (5 years old or less).  Yay!  That means a few less things to worry about.

Then we saw the electrical box, which is very old school and uses fuses.  My parent's ancient 70+ year old house doesn't even have the fuse version.  We made a note of it and added that to our additional costs.

Do I see a french drain?  Yes, I do.  Bonus!  The walls are also waterproofed!  No dampness of walls and mildew!  Woot!  It's the small improvements that make me happy.

Upstairs Bedroom: possible guest room?

The hardwood floors continue through to the second floor, and it is such a nice sight.  There are a total of 4 bedrooms, and each room is reasonably sized.  The room pictured above was the biggest of the three spare bedrooms, and it would make for the perfect guest room.  The master bedroom is a great size for us, and we have every intention of making it a space for us to sleep and only sleep.  In our previous one bedroom apartment (aka H's parent's house), we used the space as a bedroom to sleep, a family room to entertain, and had two separate office spaces.  Yeah it was a tight fit.  We looked forward to our own master bedroom for sleeping only.

Upstairs Hallway Bathroom

I was really drawn to the upstairs bathroom.  With a house of this age, I often found really old, icky showers.  I was glad to see that the shower was nice and clean.  Everything about the room was very neutral and didn't rub me the wrong way.  The room does require some updates -- new toilet, sink, vanity, and a fresh coat of paint.  That's not too shabby.

Master Bedroom Bath

 Master Bedroom Bath: shower stall

Next we have the master bedroom bath.  Like the two car garage, having a master bath was very rare for our price range.  If we were lucky, we would sometimes encounter a half bath in the master.  Well we were super lucky because there is a shower stall and a toilet in this bathroom.  The pink stall did not scream to my feminine side.  A shower is a shower, and I was just glad it was there.  Like the other bathrooms, the toilet, sink, and vanity would need to be replaced.

Front Door & Foyer

Our hour tour ends here at the foyer.  After spending a good amount of time exploring the house and taking plenty of pictures, we were easily convinced that this would be the perfect house for us.  Looking at so many houses for the past 3-4 months, we knew exactly what we wanted, and we found it in this house.  We have no regrets with backing out of the last house, which was just down the street in the neighborhood.  This house is a tad bigger and offered much more with many updated features and very neutral colors.  The asking price was definitely priced to sell, and we were more than comfortable spending that much for our 1st home.  The key to the price was that it was a good deal and within our budget.

Finding the perfect home is the hard part, but there would be more ahead for us as we put in our offer and hopefully enter negotiations.  *crosses fingers*

Tip:
While looking at a home, make sure to take pictures!!  Even if the home isn't the one of your dreams, it is nice to have a photographic journal of your home hunting adventure.  You can visually see what features you loved in the homes you saw.  On the flip side, you can photograph the stuff that didn't appeal to you so much.  You may not have all the time in the world to inspect every inch of the house.  A photograph will give you further details that you can check out in the comforts of your home on the computer.  Zoom in on areas.  Take photos of the hvac.  Take photos of any noticeable leaks.  It'll also be a reminder of the things you might want to bring up with your realtor.

Previously:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back from Vacation

The hubby and I are back from vacation, and we're getting back to our normal routine.  We had a blast and cannot wait until the next time we can get away again.  It is so nice to be able to get away and spend one on one time with your best friend.  I only have a few photos from our trip because we were too busy having fun.  Enjoy!

We stayed at the Roxbury Hotel in Roxbury, NY for our relax-acation.  I highly recommend the hotel.  Customer service is really out of this world, and we felt really welcomed.  We had frequent interactions with the owner.  He even knew who we were as soon as we stepped out of the car.  It must be our very Asian names and very Asian looks.  House keeping is also super friendly, and boy are they efficient.  We left the room for 15 minutes to grab some breakfast and came back to a pristine room.  The carpet was vacuumed, the bed was made, towels were refreshed, and even our two mugs of hot chocolate that we left in the sink were cleaned for us.  Like I said before, this is amazing customer service.  The funky decor is also a bonus, and each room is designed differently.  H and I had a difficult time deciding on which room to stay in because there are so many cool designs to choose from. 

king sized bed & glimpse of the kitchenette

 side view of kitchenette

sink, cabinets, counter top

I love having the amenities of a tiny kitchen in our room.  We need the flexibility to bring our own food, and the kitchenette was perfect.  The mini refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker were more than enough for us to get by through the long weekend.  We made sure to bring popcorn, hot chocolate, and many snacks for watching movies in bed.  They have an extensive collection of DVDs, which we definitely took advantage of.  H and I watched It Happened One Night, The Sound of Music, and Casablanca during our stay.    

pretty green bathroom

Oddly enough, I was pretty inspired by their bathroom.  I love the funky, bright green on the walls and how it integrated with the titles and shower curtain (not pictured).  The mirror above the sink is a DIY inspiration, and I'm pretty sure I can replicate the same for our home bathroom.  Yipee!!

another view of the bed

 the lovely green door

The rooms have outdoor access, which I found to be refreshing.  The higher altitude and warmer than usual rooms (I'm used to a super cold house), made it difficult for me to breathe at times.  It was easy to open the door and get some fresh air.  Plus it also made unloading and loading the car much easier.  We didn't have to be embarrassed by bringing our cooler or my boat pillow.  

view of the stream next to our hotel

 posing on the small bridge in front of our hotel

 a super lame photo taken from my camera of H

We were very fortunate to come into town to see a nice blanket of snow on the ground.  Saturday was warm and sunny for our entertaining needs.  We walked around town and just took our time to enjoy our surroundings.  The Roxbury Hotel is located in the Catskill Mountains, and it is a major skiing attraction.  While we were not there for the skiing, it is quite popular.  We saw plenty of people in their ski jackets with their lift tickets attached.

 so busy having fun that we almost forgot to take a photo of us together

So what did we do all weekend?  Relax of course!!  We had a couple's massage, which was a first for both of us.  H is just accustomed to my unprofessional amateur massages.  The massage was worth every penny!  It came at the perfect time, just as I was recovering from my aches and pains from earlier in the week.  My muscles were very thankful.  I recommend for everyone to at least have one professional massage.  It feels soooo good.  Hehe.

We also went to Peekamoose Restaurant, which was about 30 minutes away from our hotel.  Since we were pretty much in the middle of no where, I didn't expect fine dining to be on our menu.  The restaurant was highly recommended by our hotel, and we had a reservation right after our couple's massage.  Let me just say that I was too busy eating and enjoying time with my husband to take any pictures.  We choose to go with the chef's tasting menu, and boy did we have a tasteful food adventure.  The chef was able to make accommodations for me, and the food was oh so delicious.  The most memorable parts of the meal were the bread (Who says that?  Well I do b/c it was soooo yummy), beet tartare, butternut squash soup, and seared scallops.  Oh how did they know that I absolutely love scallops?  The staff was very attentive, and I'm pretty sure this was the best service I've had in a very long time, especially for a fine dining establishment.  The atmosphere and yummy food made for the perfect night, and H and I left with a smile on our face and very happy, full tummies.

At first I didn't think that we would be back here again.  This small vacation was meant to be a get away, and we decided everything last minute.  We're not the snow boarding/skiing adventurous types.  The drive is far, and the weather is much colder (at least that's what we thought, but we came home to wind chills that made it feel so much warmer up north).  H and I are usually the food types.  We go to where the yummy food calls, and that's usually major cities.  I am happy to report that we will most likely come back again.  We just had the best time and really enjoyed our relax-acation.

So vacation is now over, and Christmas is right around the corner.  It's time to get back on track and return to our normal lives.  No worries.  I'm already planning our next vacation in my head.  Muahahaha!  We have credit with Southwest that we paid for almost 6 months ago, and we only have a year to use it.  That sounds like another adventure for H and I!  Hehe.